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Connecticut legislators discuss legalizing medical marijuana for children

HARTFORD--On Wednesday, Connecticut's Public Health Committee held a public hearing to discuss a bill legalizing cannabis oil for minors.

The bill would only allow the drug in an oil form, containing no more than 0.3 percent THC. The marijuana could not be smoked, inhaled or vaporized. Doctors could use the drug to treat children suffering from epilepsy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and other neurological and inflammatory diseases.

The majority of Public Health Committee members seemed to be in favor of the bill. "There are 23 states with a medical marijuana program," said committee chair Rep. Matt Ritter. "All of them allow medical marijuana for children with a doctor's prescription. We are the only state that does not currently."

Ritter, a Democrat, said the language in the bill is limited to ensure the drug would be used properly. "You have two doctors sign off and a legal guardian. Those protections in place we think will make sure they're going to the folks who need it most, who it's helpful for and whose physicians support the measures we're taking."

House Republican Whit Betts, also on the Public Health Committee, said he is nervous about using marijuana with children, but will give the bill consideration. "Under very strict guidelines specifically for medical purposes like cancer, I would certainly give serious consideration to supporting that," said Betts.

Several parents choked up while speaking in front of the committee, desperate to find relief for their children, suffering from epilepsy.

"It's terribly frustrating," said Hamden dad Dwayne Paul, whose daughter has epilepsy. "We treat our kids like a science experiment."

Paul's daughter has suffered from seizures for the last 17 years, and does not respond to traditional medication. "My daughter has been through 33 different medications, and the side effects were horrendous," said Paul.

Those side effects include hallucinations, weight loss, weight gain, moodiness and severe fatigue.

She tried brain surgery, but that was a failure. "You have brain surgery and three months later, your child is still having seizures," said Paul. "That ordeal is extremely frustrating."

Other parents who testified expressed similar frustrations. "When you watch your own child suffer day after day, it is the most heart-wrenching feeling," said mom Joy O'Meara.

Susan Meehan and her family moved from Connecticut to Maine specifically so her 13-year-old daughter Cindy May could use cannabis oil for her epilepsy. Meehan said they have seen a dramatic difference. "She's out of the wheelchair, walking and talking and running and playing," said Meehan.

Just a few years ago, Cindy May's seizures were out of control. "She was having over a thousand of what we call 'myoclonic seizures' an hour," said Meehan. Meehan said cannabis oil has given her daughter her life back.

Meehan spoke at Wednesday's hearing, hoping to bring change to Connecticut so other families are not forced to move. "Connecticut legislators have a responsibility to these other families who have children who hide at home due to seizures. Whose children turn blue and their mom wonders, 'Is this the seizure that will kill him?'"

There is another bill in the legislature to legalize recreational marijuana. It has not yet been called up for a public hearing.


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